Charities warn badger cull could lead to local extinctions

Charities fear badger cull could lead to local extinction.

Charities have warned that going ahead with the badger cull again this year could place badgers at risk of “local extinction” in parts of England and have called for a suspension of the programme.


The Badger Trust is leading a call to immediately suspend the ‘intensive culling’ period of the cull in order to provide the badgers across the southwest some respite. The charity alongside other groups including Born Free UK, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the RSPCA wrote to Natural England to make clear the threat that badgers are currently facing.

The letter said:

We are collectively asking for an immediate suspension of the upcoming cull in intensive zones in light of the impact that extreme weather is having on badgers and their cubs. Population levels have fallen, and badger clans are in severe distress. Going ahead with an intensive cull under these conditions increases the possibility of local extinction events in areas badgers have thrived for 500,000 years

The letter came after England experienced extreme weather conditions including record-breaking heatwaves and severe drought throughout July and August. Badgers have suffered because of these conditions. The Daily Mail reported on badgers dying of dehydration and hunger. The Independent said that earthworms, which are badgers’ primary food source, “wrap their bodies into a tight knot and become almost dormant” during droughts, making it nearly impossible for badgers to find them. Intensive culling may combine with these conditions to create an endgame scenario for entire regions of badgers.

Intensive culling, which begins in September, is the initial four-year period for a licensed culling area that aims to reduce the badger population by 70%. This is achieved through free shooting, where people shoot free-roaming badgers at night, and trapping, which allows landowners to kill badgers in a cage.

The intensive cull period lasts approximately six weeks. But it’s hard to know exactly how many badgers live in any single cull zone and this year’s weather conditions may have reduced populations further than expected. As a result, intensive culling may cause an overshoot of population reduction and wipe the creatures out. The Badger Trust said it is particularly concerned about areas in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

In addition to intensive culling, badgers also face supplementary culling that aims to keep the population below 30%. Supplementary cull zones can kill badgers from June to January.



The government said in 2021 that it would stop issuing intensive culling licences after 2022. But this doesn’t mean the end of the cull. Each intensive cull licence runs for four years, meaning this period of the culling programme will take place in parts of England until 2026. Furthermore, the government said it will continue licensing supplementary culls to maintain low badger populations. There is currently no end date for issuing supplementary cull licences.

A peer-reviewed study published in March said it “failed to identify a meaningful effect of badger culling on bTB in English cattle herds”. Despite this, a DEFRA official claimed that the cull has been effective in reducing bTB rates in cattle during a conference in Canada. DEFRA was widely criticised for contradicting peer-reviewed data – including its own.

The cull has killed more than 176,000 badgers since it began in 2013. It has been described as “the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory”. Peter Hambly, executive director of the Badger Trust, called the cull a “national wildlife tragedy”.

Help fight the badger cull by contacting your local anti-badger cull group.